I have hair on my chin. No, not fine and fair baby hair. I have actual hair on my chin. And my jawline. And I could grow a beard if I wanted.
PCOS a.k.a. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a.k.a ‘root of 50% of my problems’ is the bane of my existence.
What is PCOS?
Well, it is a hormone imbalance that affects females during their reproductive years. You can read more about it over here. I don’t feel like explaining, I’d much rather complain. Maybe there is someone else out there with the same problem. In fact, I know that there are others out there. About 12% of women have PCOS.
You’d think with approximately 12% of women having this problem, that there would be some sort of, I don’t know, appropriate treatment, a solution perhaps. Well, wrong. No. There isn’t.
When you’re finally done the run around between doctors and specialists and blood test labs, oh! and that one GP who DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO READ THE TEST RESULTS (so many women have this experience it is not even remotely funny), the doctor, most likely a gynecologist, will confirm what you’ve been suspicious of for the last couple of years.
Hooray!!! You have PCOS!
Your next conversation will be the one in which you’re offered birth control pills. You’ll ask them to explain this suggestion. They’d say that it doesn’t actually deal directly with the problem BUT you’ll bleed once a month so you don’t end up with endometrial cancer down the road. Maybe you’ll take it, maybe you won’t. At this point, you’ve probably already read endless reports which confirm that all of the infertility problems associated with PCOS will show up the second you’d like to get pregnant and so stop taking the birth control. Maybe you don’t want to be pregnant anyway so you take the pill.
Oh right, I didn’t want to explain the whole PCOS thing because I just wanted to complain. Yikes! Because now you don’t really know the complications of what I’m talking about. Ugghhh! Start from the beginning Rushell, start from the beginning!
Okies, here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Irregular periods. A lack of ovulation prevents the uterine lining from shedding every month. Some women with PCOS get fewer than eight periods a year.
- Heavy bleeding. The uterine lining builds up for a longer period of time, so the periods you do get can be heavier than normal.
- Hair growth. More than 70 percent of women with this condition grow hair on their face and body — including on their back, belly, and chest.
- Acne. Male hormones can make the skin oilier than usual and cause breakouts on areas like the face, chest, and upper back.
- Weight gain. Up to 80 percent of women with PCOS are overweight or obese.
- Male-pattern baldness. The hair on the scalp gets thinner and fall out.
- Darkening of the skin. Dark patches of skin can form in body creases like those on the neck, in the groin, and under the breasts.
- Headaches. Hormone changes can trigger headaches in some women.
Sounds great right? This isn’t cancer, nor is it anything that has you in constant pain. However, it disrupts your life in so many ways. Of the eight symptoms listed above, I’ve got five. Plus there is the depression, anxiety and poor sleep quality (many people also have sleep apnea- I’ve never checked).
Up to two weeks ago, I was “overweight” like 80% of women with PCOS. I try so freaking hard to eat well, reduce and limit my sugar, and to exercise frequently. I was 198lbs at my heaviest weight (maybe more but I avoided the scale so, that’s the highest that I have recorded). I’m now under 165lbs. Guess what’s changed? … That’s right, nothing.
In fact, the older I get, it seems to be the worse I sleep and the more hair I have on my face. Oh, and umm where are my periods?? Is it even a period if I bleed for one month straight or is that just a prolonged period of bleeding?
Once while living in Montreal, I walked 2 km from the uni library to my home in -15C. I was wearing gym shorts and a jacket. It was at 2 am. Why were those guys pulling up next to me on the sidewalk offering me to hop in? That’s because the period which hadn’t shown up in heaven knows how many months, appeared miraculously. Not only did it appear but it decided to gush out of me. Goodbye, 2nd favourite jeans. Thank you emergency pads, you’ve been rendered useless. Sorry, library chair. Oops, I couldn’t even call a taxi because I couldn’t sit anywhere in that state. So, that’s the night PCOS had the men of Montreal thinking that I was a “working girl”.
Then there are the regular days. The days when after sleeping poorly, I go brush my teeth and look into the mirror. I’m greeted by a hairy chin. A beard in fact. A freaking beard that I plucked out with a tweezer, just two days ago. If there is enough time, I’ll tweeze it all over again. If not, I go through my day with endless stares, a couple comments, and a truckload of false confidence which I think just makes me feel even worse about myself. On days like today, when I can’t find the freaking truckload of confidence I just end up crying in public. Random people approaching me to talk about my facial hair, as if I didn’t realise it was there, just takes it out of me.
I feel so self-conscious.
I don’t even want to go out. On weekends I work at a farmers’ market and from Wednesday I begin feeling anxious. Yes, yes, it’s purely cosmetic, this part of it. In fact, I’m going to start laser treatment soon. BUT (and there is always a but) laser isn’t that great for people with PCOS. In fact, when you’re going to do laser hair removal treatment, they let you know that if you have any hormonal change (pregnancy, menopause, etc.), the hair can/will come back. Darling, PCOS is hormonal changes. So, like many others have experienced, I could do a course of 12 treatments, then end up with a beard again seven months later 🙂
I could also take medication to reduce the androgens in my body, you know, all of the testosterone and friends which are causing all of this hair. Yea, my doctor told me about it. She also told me that if I accidentally get pregnant while on that medication, it would lead to the feminisation of male embryos… read that again. WHUTTTTTT???!!!! My doctor explained that this could result in a baby girl (based on the expressed genitals) who was originally a boy. Or, a baby boy, who grows to experience the development of breasts, or a sense that he is a girl. (Aside: Think again about your stance and feelings towards trans people.)
I hadn’t yet had sex at that point. Yet I still could not imagine myself putting another human being through that experience ‘just so that I wouldn’t have hair on my face‘. I barely had two seconds to contemplate before my doctor continued and said that she would not be helping to terminate such a pregnancy if it occurred.
There’s something else! I could take drugs for Type 2 diabetes patients. For the rest of my child producing years. It’ll help me lose weight, make me more responsive to insulin (currently resistant) but I’ll also be taking it indefinitely for three times a day, (if I don’t throw them up) with lots of hope and side effects. This is “great” because I won’t end up with diabetes but, I’ll be taking the meds just as well.
Oh and if I go back to my pre-PCOS diagnosis dream of wanting eight children, then, I can take another drug that women with PCOS use in attempts to having biological children. It’s called Clomiphene and it would be very likely that I have all eight of those children in just two high-risk pregnancies.
Eventually, all of this got me beyond frustrated. I decided, screw this, I don’t want children, I don’t want a period, I just want this to be done and over with. I want a hysterectomy. Long story short, I didn’t get it. I am young and haven’t had any children (hmm I wonder why). Plus! Getting one at 24 (if I somehow convinced some doctor) would launch me into another arena of problems.
It gets better.
Oh, sorry, I lied, it doesn’t. You know what is great for getting through tough experiences? A clear, strong mind. Do you know what makes getting through a tough situation tougher? Depression! If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you know how that has plagued my life. It makes me dysfunctional and PCOS makes me frustrated.
So, I sit in my misery, and sometimes my blood, and I feel hopeless. There are so many drugs with perhaps equally undesirable side effects, which don’t go to the root of the problem. There are so many pathways to nothing. There is nothing to be done. Besides staying away from foods with high glycemic indexes & doing lots of exercising. Lots of people (myself included) often suggest ‘lifestyle change’. You know, lose weight, etc.. but really, none of this ever stops PCOS and it’s symptoms. Even slim and skinny women still have PCOS. It’s like Hotel California, you could check out at any time you like but you can never leave.
So I sit in my misery and try to carry the legit trauma that this thing has caused me. And some times I laugh, and sometimes (often) I cry, but mostly, I just keep on doing that draining fake truckload of confidence thing because regardless of the situation, life goes on… until it doesn’t.
PS. It’s more than “just hair”. It’s being teased by your ‘best friend’ growing up, it is never knowing when you’re going to start bleeding or stop bleeding or develop diabetes or cancer, or if you’ll have children, or if your brain could make it through that episode of depression. Or so many other things which just wear down on the awareness and energy that any person has available to them on any set day.